Uber is introducing new safety features in South Africa after reports of rape and robberies

Panic buttons will be installed in select Uber cars in Johannesburg.
Panic buttons will be installed in select Uber cars in Johannesburg.
Image: Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach
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After reports of rape and robberies during rides, Uber is stepping up its security features in South Africa.

The ride-hailing company is launching an “in-vehicle SOS button.” During the pilot phase it will be only in some vehicles in Johannesburg; if it works, Uber says, it will be rolled out in other African markets.

The SOS buttons will be linked to the company’s central security system and constantly monitored. They ”will allow driver-partners to connect to a broad base of emergency services and receive advice in a critical situation,” Uber says.

Uber’s in-vehicle panic button will only be available to drivers unlike in India  where an in-app button allows riders access emergency services. Uber is also testing dashboard cameras, which will record events inside and outside the car, with some of its drivers in Cape Town

Uber’s safety record has been dented in recent months after at least two incidents of rape and robbery in South Africa involving Uber drivers. For its part, Uber says it worked in “close collaboration” with South African authorities to apprehend culprits and has “been in contact” with the riders and their families. But the affected riders have been unimpressed. In addition to claiming they received receipts for the rides during which they were robbed and raped, Ulrich Roux, a lawyer representing the victims, says they have “not received any communication from Uber.”